‘Yellowstone’ Was Almost An HBO Show But Network Execs Thought It Was Too ‘Middle America’

Beyond learning that Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan would rather retire from television than collaborate with other writers, his Hollywood Reporter feature story has revealed that the hit western soap opera about the Dutton family was almost an HBO series. Pitched originally as “The Godfather in Montana,” Sheridan wrote it as a feature before converting it into a pilot script and developing it with HBO under the guidance of then-programming head Michael Lombardo.

Sheridan wanted Kevin Costner (of 2003’s Open Range fame) for the role, but HBO was giving him the runaround until one executive proclaimed that they needed more star power, and offered that if Robert Redford would star, Sheridan would get his greenlight. Naturally, Sheridan visited Redford, wooed him into taking the role, and HBO promptly backpedaled.

“And he says — and you can’t make this shit up — ‘We meant a Robert Redford type,'” Sheridan recalled. Another executive allegedly laid out their reluctance more plainly, saying that the show was too “Middle America” for the cutting edge network in a conversation where it became clear that the development was dead. Normally, it would have stayed dead, but Lombardo got Sheridan the rights back before leaving HBO, which is why he was able to sell it to Paramount and craft a hit show.

This kind of origin myth should be taken with a grain of salt (along with Sheridan’s claim that he writes an episode in 8 hours and gets no notes back from Paramount), but it’s definitely plausible. At any rate, the show that Sheridan ended up making feels more like it should be on Paramount than on HBO, and now we’ve got the vision of Robert Redford playing Vito Corleone with the Big Horn Mountains as a backdrop to fuel our desire for alternate TV history.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)